Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
In 1908, as a junior at Bryn Mawr College, then one of the most progressive women’s colleges in the United States, Marianne Moore published a story in the student literary magazine in which she expressed one of the most fundamental contradictions operating in the life of an artist obsessed with a task. “There are times,” she wrote, “when I should give anything on earth to have writing a matter of indifference to me.” Thus at the age of nineteen she acknowledged with characteristic ardor and reluctance the major motivating force of her life. While contending that she never intended to be a writer, explaining that everything she wrote was “the result of reading or of interest in people,” Moore realized early in her life that her development as a person would be inextricably bound to some form of artistic expression, and that the moral and social issues that concerned her would have to be addressed through the formulation of insights, which required the mastery of a singularly individual language. She has been rightfully acknowledged with T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens as one of the great poets of the modernist era, but her critical and appreciative essays, written across a wider arc of time than her poetry, are a revealing complement to the poems, expressing a sensibility and intelligence that shaped and reflected the cultural complex of which she was an important element for half a century.
Born in the...
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
The emergence of a focused feminist consciousness in literary studies in the middle of the twentieth century has led to the development of a much more complete understanding of Marianne Moore’s work, but it has not diminished debate concerning her importance in women’s literature. As Sandra Gilbert points out, Moore was “fetishized” as a woman poet as her reputation grew, and she was compelled to work with or against the public conception of a “feminine” writer, “simultaneously impersonating and analyzing . . . the newly public role of ‘poetess’ laureate.” While some critics such as John Slatin have noted the difficulties in trying to speak “publicly as a woman” when every form of discourse available was already “marginal” and sympathized with her efforts to redefine such concepts as heroism and pull into a field of vision the culturally marginal and repressed, Suzanne Juhasz in 1977 described what she considered an avoidance, if not a betrayal, of crucial feminist concerns on Moore’s part.
Juhasz’s critique depends upon a supposition that Moore was “trying to get into the tradition,” not start her own, and that she translated her experience into “masculine forms and symbols” that a male cultural hierarchy deemed correct. Juhasz has been directly challenged by Tess Gallagher, who has examined Moore’s poetry in conjunction with her essays, letters, and unpublished but extensive personal data—the widening angle of...
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, which was published in anticipation of Marianne Moore’s centenary in 1987, presents all of her published prose except for letters, interviews, and quotations in the writings of others. The body of the text consists primarily of reviews and essays in chronological order of publication; the works published when Moore was editor of The Dial (1921-1929) are subdivided by kind into reviews, “Comment” (the name of a regular feature in The Dial), and “Briefer Mention,” containing one-paragraph notices of books published. The appendix comprises separate sections for “letters to the editor,” dust-jacket blurbs for the works of others, miscellaneous short pieces, book lists, and questionnaire responses. The editor, Patricia C. Willis, curator of the Marianne Moore Collection at the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, supplies a four-page introductory appreciation and notes of the original place and date of publication at the end of each piece.
Although Moore’s reputation will continue to be based primarily upon her poetry, this collection affords readers the opportunity to trace over the course of some sixty years her influence as a critical reader and her refinement as a prose stylist. Her acutely perceptive sensibility and delicately resilient control are displayed...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Goodridge, Celeste. Hints and Disguises: Marianne Moore and Her Contemporaries. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. A critical study of Moore’s work as a critic “reconstructing the public dialogue” she had with the writers she admired.
Martin, Taffy. Marianne Moore: Subversive Modernist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986. A lucid, perceptive, intellectually challenging study of Moore’s development as a critic and a poet.
Molesworth, Charles. Marianne Moore: A Literary Life. New York: Atheneum, 1990. The first biography of Moore, a thorough, factually accurate account that deftly connects her life and thought to all of her writing.
Parisi, Joseph, ed. Marianne Moore: The Art of a Modernist. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Press, 1990. The transcripts of a symposium that covered Moore’s public persona and reputation, with a survey of the writing gathered in The Complete Prose. Enthusiastic if not always completely informed about Moore’s life and work.
Willis, Patricia C., ed. Marianne Moore: Woman and Poet. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1990. An excellent collection of critical essays, expertly edited by Willis, who provides a good introduction. Includes an indispensable annotated bibliography by Bonnie Honigsblum, covering work done...
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